Bob Rowthorn's essay on immigration and national cohesion last month provoked a big response, mostly - as here - hostileby Nicholas Hildyard / March 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
At a time when asylum seekers are regularly subject to brutal attacks by those whose racist politics have been fed by irresponsible media reporting, the need for cool heads and sober analysis is urgent. For Prospect to have published Bob Rowthorn’s polemic on the case for Fortress Europe (February 2003) is therefore deeply regrettable.
The article is riddled with inaccuracies. Rowthorn claims that immigration threatens the symbols of British nationhood-and cites the case of a Muslim recruit to the Metropolitan Police (actually he was a traffic warden) who had objected to the police badge because it includes a Christian cross. He then states that the “Metropolitan Police has agreed to produce an alternative badge without the crown.” A five-second internet search would have revealed this to be untrue. The Metropolitan Police has specifically rejected any change to its badge.
Rowthorn is not always straight with statistics either. He argues, for example, that current rates of immigration, if unchecked, will lead to one in seven of the population being “foreign-born” by 2050. Rowthorn’s projections only work, however, if one assumes that 100 per cent of those who come to Britain will remain here. Yet, one need only be resident in Britain for 12 months to be included in his figures. Moreover, as those who work with refugees repeatedly attest, the vast majority of asylum seekers yearn to return home once it is safe for them to do so. Indeed, the law requires them to make such a return journey once the threat of persecution has been lifted.
Rowthorn’s treatment of the concept of “economic migrants” is slanted. His underlying premise is that the majority of those who migrate do so in search of increased prosperity. Statistically, he is right: the largest group of migrants worldwide?some 25m in the mid-1990s?consists of the employees of multinational companies (mostly middle and upper managers) who move from one country to another in search of new business opportunities. Few impediments are put in their way: on the contrary, many companies now make it a condition of the contracts they draw up with national governments that special bureaus should be established to facilitate their employees obtaining the necessary work permits and visas. In Britain, partners and children are invariably granted permission to join executives working for multinational companies; dependants wishing to join poorer migrants are not so welcome.
And it is, of course, the poorer migrants…